culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
First Command, last resort. Part 2. Hey! Here's a sales idea! Before teenage soldiers offer to die for their country, let's
trick them into buying some ludicrously expensive life insurance:
Nicholas Stachler was 19 years old when he reported for basic training with the Army at Fort Benning, Ga., before shipping out for 11 months to Iraq.

A gentle, trusting man, he had only weeks earlier graduated from high school with a handful of trophies in hockey and soccer, middling grades and hardly a clue about how to handle his money. He had held only casual jobs, baby-sitting and mowing lawns, and had never opened a checking account. The bus trip to boot camp, from the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Ohio to the kudzu-covered fields of western Georgia, took him farther from home than he had ever been.

About six weeks into his training, he tasted one of the less honorable traditions of military life: a compulsory classroom briefing on personal finance that was a life-insurance sales pitch in disguise.

As he remembers the class and as base investigative records show, two insurance agents quick-stepped him and his classmates through a stack of paperwork, pointing out where they should sign their names and where they should scribble their initials. They were given no time to read the documents and no copies to keep.

Stachler says he thought he had arranged to have $100 a month deducted from his pay for an Army-endorsed savings plan or mutual fund. When he returned from Iraq, he found that he had not been saving the money at all. He had been paying $100 a month in premiums for an insurance policy that promised him some cash value far down the road and a death benefit that was almost certainly less than $44,000, a small amount compared with the $250,000 in life insurance he had through a military-sponsored plan that cost him $16.25 a month.


A young Marine at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for example, was sold a 20-year insurance policy last fall that gave him a death benefit of just under $28,000, plus some cash value far in the future, in exchange for $6,600 in premiums paid in the first seven years. That was more than 14 times what the same death benefit would have cost him under his military-sponsored plan.

Another product heavily promoted to military people is a type of mutual fund in which 50 percent of first-year contributions are consumed as fees, a deal considered so expensive that such funds all but disappeared from the civilian market almost 20 years ago.


The companies selling financial services in the military market try to recruit former military people to be their agents, people who can fit smoothly into receptions like the one at Fort Bliss.

Few companies have more fervently embraced this form of salesmanship, called affinity marketing, than First Command, a 46-year-old financial services company originally known by the awkward name USPA and IRA. The company said all of the 300,000 families that it serves are headed by former or active-duty commissioned officers or higher-ranking noncommissioned officers; it does not serve lower-ranking service people. And almost all of its 1,007 agents have served in the military or “have military connections.” None, it says, have been cited for rule violations.
Yes, it's yet another First Command Financial Planning story.

Somehow selling overpriced life insurance and scammy investments to potentially doomed teenagers seems, how shall I put this, evil incarnate.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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